Photos by Ben Brown

Sea Change at Chez Melange: Fine Seafood in a Tight-Knit Community

Sea Change is one of three restaurants housed in Redondo Beach’s Chez Melange, a quaint retreat just steps from the beach. Run by Executive Chef Robert Bell and Co-Owner Michael Franks, who have been in business together for more than 40 years, Chez Melange is both homage to decades of friendship and a modern player in the realm of sophisticated fare. 

Pass Bouzy Gastropub and Oyster Bar, Chez Melange’s other micro-establishments, and a museum-style corridor allows for a glimpse of the past—photos of Robert and Michael from the early 90’s, menus from their previous restaurants, and even painted portraits of the two in action. From there, enter Sea Change, a small but mighty dining room hustling and bustling with the regulars, who are just as familiar with each other as they are with the servers who see them ever so frequently. 

Becoming part of the family is easier than anticipated, with friendly staff that greet you with a warm smile at first sight.  The difficult part comes with placing your order. Chez Melange’s massive menu with inspirations from across the globe speaks to Chef Bell’s range, and fresh fish specials that change daily take it up a level further. 

At the top of the list stands the Zarzuela, a Spanish stew of scallops, shrimp, mussels and other seafood in an addictive bisque-like base. The New England dry pack scallops are the perfect golden brown, taken off the frying pan not a second too soon or too late, served with rich bacon cheddar mashed potatoes. The Pacific Rim tostadas bring together sashimi-grade ahi, Japanese salsa, avocado, spicy aioli and pickled ginger atop wontons that contain just the right crunch. 

Portion sizes are another strong suit at Sea Change. It’s a surprise to see guests finish the mountain of Parmesan truffle fries, or have room after the delightful baby beet salad. The drink selection follows much the same face, containing a long list of wine, beer, craft cocktails and a homemade ginger lemonade that’s absolutely worth trying. 

For more information visit ChezMelange.com

The Dolly Llama: Dessert Built for Instagram

The Dolly Llama is Downtown L.A.’s newest destination to hop on the Instagram dessert craze. Menu and decor alike were without a doubt conceptualized for the sweet-toothed paparazzi, allowing anyone seeking likes and followers to show off bright colors and nostalgic flavors. And yes, the bubble waffle ice cream cones and waffle sticks in every sugary iteration taste great. 

The process is simple: choose your waffle type, then choose from a myriad of toppings and sauces, plus ice cream if applicable. Each option gets one sauce and two toppings. The Dolly Llama’s signature is certainly the bubble waffle ice cream cone—a homemade waffle with bumps instead of pockets, set in cone form, filled with ice cream and topped with various accouterments including whipped cream and cotton candy. The ice cream is truly standout, with flavors like horchata, red velvet and cookie monster that are as decadent as they are creative. 

Those seeking lighter fare, however, can opt for an original waffle or a waffle stick, which eats like a corncob. The Dolly Llama also serves milkshakes, bottled soft drinks and hot cocoa, hot-chata and hot vanilla. Regardless of your choice, trust that the staff will show off meticulous attention to detail.

Canisters of candy, bright cereal boxes, dressed up bubble waffle cones, neon lights and of course paintings of a llama donning sunglasses give The Dolly Llama a modern feel with a touch of old school, perfectly matching the menu. 

For more information, visit TheDollyLlamala.com.

Frida Americana: Glendale’s South-of-the-Border Hotspot

Pink booths line the walls of the vast open-air dining room, which flows right into a broad patio that takes in the best of Glendale’s bustling Brand Boulevard and Americana at Brand, the elegant shopping mall that gives Frida Americana its last name. A labyrinthine menu, brightly colored margaritas and elegant tequila flights complement a bustling atmosphere quite nicely, allowing Frida Americana to integrate Mexican taste into a posh L.A. vibe. 

Frida Americana plays to its audience quite well, showcasing all the amenities you could ever hope for in a stylish full-service Mexican restaurant. Hot tortilla chips with hotter salsas meet you about as soon as you sit down, making tableside guacamole a must. The challenge then ensues, as there are far more choices than the appetite can handle. Should you order a village Mexican salad, served in a grilled crispy cheese bowl, or opt for the zucchini and poblano chowder? Or do you skip on both, focusing instead on the street corn, sweet at heart with chile and cotija to bring out its full character? 

Mexican classics are ever-present at Frida Americana, highlighted by a custom enchilada menu where guests choose their filling and their sauce. It’s always a tough call, but you don’t have to look back once the steak enchiladas, covered in a bold, earthy mole sauce, arrive at the table. And since you’re here to indulge, the sirloin and chicken flautas hold that desirable fluffy crunch that’s so rarely found in anything besides this deep-fried favorite.

Moving away from the tortilla and toward the more premium dishes, Frida’s steak, seafood and house specialties add a significant dimension to the menu. The camarones al ajillo, or shrimp in garlic butter sauce, are just as decadent as they sound.

While it will be hard to save room, dessert should not be missed. It rains caramel at Frida Mexicana, with crepas con cajeta, flan and churros made all the better with that ridiculous and addictive sauce. 

Drinks, of course, are a staple here, with an alluring margarita selection that includes blueberry mint, tamarind, Jamaica and your classic mango, among others. The tequila flights are Instagrammable to say the least, as is the fun and eclectic crowd that keeps the party going until closing. 

For those looking for a fun twist on brunch, Frida Americana offers a Sunday Mariachi Brunch, served weekly from 10:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 

For more information, visit FridaAmericana.com

Upcoming Events

SoCal sees no shortage of food festivals, but several hot gastronomic celebrations are coming up:

California Wine Festival Orange County is happening in Dana Point from April 20–21. Hundreds of wines, a collection of food purveyors and live music are set to highlight a beautiful wine-filled weekend. Find out more at CaliforniaWineFestival.com/events/orange-county.

Taste Walk Glendale, a walking food tour of 40—yes, 40—of the town’s restaurants, will unfold on Wednesday, May 2. They mean business when they say “ready, set, gorge!” Find out more at TasteOfDowntownGlendale.com.

Masters of Taste is set to take place at The Rose Bowl on Sunday, May 6. This collection of culinary mastery brings together favorites from Pasadena as well as the greater L.A. area. Find out more at MastersOfTasteLA.com.

The Santa Clarita BBQ and Beer Festival is May 11–12, with the flagship beer tasting on Friday, May 11. Now in its third year, the event has made leaps and bounds to host a mouthwatering food and drink lineup in the unsuspecting suburb otherwise known for Magic Mountain. Prepare for a pleasant surprise. Find out more at BbqAndBeerFestival.com.